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Is The West Imposing Its Values On Developing Nations Through The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights

2425 words - 10 pages

Human rights became a concept in the early 1900’s so to protect the rights of human beings worldwide and establish a more harmonious global society. This concept was embodied in international law for the first time half a century ago (Heuer & Schirmer, 1998), however the concept of universal human rights did not take consideration to the fact that most cultures do not follow identical morals to those of the west. Hence, these rights are certainly not universally-applied today, with oppression, torture and various atrocities committed in many parts of the world still (Lower, 2013). Advocates of cultural relativism argue that permitting international norms to override the dictates of culture and religion is a violation of state sovereignty (Musalo, 2014), so many cultures do not follow the human rights concept established by western societies. In fact, the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies in 2006 expressed that “many Arabs perceive internationally recognized human rights as a western import and thus unsuitable for [their] societies” (quoted by Bahey El Din Hassan; IRIN, 2006). The concept of universal norms is one considered by western states, and so this idea of human rights is far from applicable in many other cultures. This essay will argue that although the concept of universal human rights would be beneficial for the entire globe, the concept as it stands today is fundamentally western orientated, and thus is a form of western cultural imperialism if imposed in a non-west state. This essay will begin by illustrating that the origin of the universal declaration of human rights is essentially western, and further highlighting several renowned human rights activist groups and NGO’s that are in danger of allowing themselves to be co-opted into strategies that impose western values on developing nations (Foley, 2009). Finally, this essay will address cases between 2000 and the present, where western human rights groups have acted imperialistically in non-west societies, and how their actions either caused more chaos, or proved to be beneficial for the parties involved because of the imposition of western morals.

The concept of human rights, as it is known today, expresses western liberal values and is not compatible with other parts of the world. In fact, to transplant the ideals of western society onto non-western states commits a blunder rooted in intellectual arrogance (Chowdhury, 2013). Numerous human rights declarations, treaties and conventions were drafted under the guidance of the United Nations. One of the most vital declarations adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948 is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Musalo, 2014). The declaration’s foreword states that it is to serve “as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations” (Musalo, 2014), and was intended to be universally applied. The declaration is often described as a progression of bills, statutes and revolutions in the...

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